The NSW Waratahs are hoping a galvanising two-week road trip can be the spark to reignite their flagging Super Rugby campaign.
Saturday’s clash with the Western Force in Perth and then a testing encounter in Cape Town against South Africa’s conference-leading Stormers loom as make or break for the Waratahs after a two-from-six start in 2016.
The Force are travelling even worse, languishing three spots below the 13th-placed Tahs after managing just one win from seven.
But riding a three-match winning streak against the Tahs, which includes a victory in 2014 when NSW claimed the title, the Force cannot be underestimated.
“It’s probably fair comment them saying they know how we play and know how to beat us because they’ve done it three times,” said Waratahs vice-captain Dave Dennis.
“They’re a smart football team. They’re obviously not having the season they probably planned, but that means nothing, as shown in the past couple of seasons when we’ve gone over there.
“We need to be a little bit smarter in how we play. Stick to what we do well but not be too predictable and mix things up a little bit.”
With a high turnover in personnel in 2016, the Waratahs’ touring squad features several first-time travellers, which Dennis believes will be good for team spirit after three tough bonus-point losses in Sydney.
“It’s always good to travel and we’ve got a really nice leg – Perth to South Africa – so … ,” he said.
“A lot of these guys are young – Jack Dempsey, Jed Holloway, Andrew Kellaway – I’ve known for a couple of years but I don’t quite truly know them.
“So to spend a bit of time away, have a bit of a laugh and play some good rugby is always good for the team morale.”
Currently nine points adrift of Australia’s conference leaders, the outlook is grim for the Waratahs.
But the landscape can change quickly if the Waratahs win on Saturday and the Brumbies lose in Canberra to the in-form Crusaders on Sunday.
Suddenly the Waratahs would be just one win behind the Brumbies with a game in hand and their finals fate back in their own hands.
“I haven’t really looked at the ladder myself, but none of us boys have given up,” said winger Reece Robinson.
“It’s not like we’re losing by much. We’re staying in the game, but hopefully we can turn it around this week.”